Part 1: Blanket Friends
Hey…would you say, whatever
we’re blanket friends
The place Macaulay chooses to live now is small and dark, just a little bit of decoration and his shit thrown everywhere. Not literal shit, of course—just, like, sneakers and clothes and old film magazines. Posters on the wall, but not posters from his own films. Still, its infinitely more cluttered than Kieran had ever expected it to be, and he wonders if what they say about a person’s apartment reflecting their mind is true, and if so, what that means about Macaulay’s mind.
Kieran gets up from the couch, where he’s supposed to be sleeping. Kieran doesn’t smoke but Macaulay does, and since Kieran smells cigarettes, he’s either developing some sort of brain tumor or Macaulay is awake. Hopefully it’s the latter, and not just because a brain tumor would ruin his career, or at least set it back a few years. Kieran misses Mack a lot of the time, but most of all at night.
When he knocks on Macaulay’s door, there’s silence, and then eventually a quiet, "Come in." Kieran does, and Macaulay is sitting up in bed—or rather, in futon—smoking and using an old newspaper as an ashtray. The newspaper is covered with coffee rings and ink stains, as well as ash, and when Kieran comes closer he can see that the cover article is about Macaulay.
"Hey," Kieran says, hands in pockets, uneasy.
Macaulay grins, and it doesn’t quite reach his eyes, even though it wants to. "Kierie," he says happily, like it’s a surprise that Kieran is there, like he hasn’t been sleeping on Macaulay’s couch for the past three days. "Come in." Macaulay does his best to clear the bed of cigarette packs and empty water bottles, but it’s a lost cause. Finally he gives up, hand fluttering his cigarette back to his mouth. "Come in," he says again, and, "Why are you wearing your jeans to bed?"
Kieran shrugs, sitting on the edge of the bed. "I dunno. I was cold."
Macaulay looks concerned. "You should have told me. I would’ve gotten you a blanket." Kieran is pretty sure that the only blanket in the apartment is the one on Macaulay’s bed, but Mack is absurdly protective of all of them. He’d probably give Kieran the blanket, anyway.
"Its okay," Kieran says. Macaulay may be older, but there’s something fragile about him. All the Culkins have it—something about the combination of lips and eyes and thin pointy faces, but with Mack there’s something really fragile, actually breakable. Kieran knows how to use it, but with Macaulay, it uses him.
The point is, he doesn’t want Mack’s blanket.
"Get in bed with me, then." Mack takes a final, longing puff off his cigarette, then crushes it out onto the newspaper. How that works without just creating more fire, Kieran doesn’t know, but somehow the cigarette goes out with only minimal burning of the paper, which was more than a little worse for wear, anyway.
When he’s done with his cigarette process and Kieran still hasn’t moved, Macaulay looks at him, eyes somehow both direct and reserved, like he’s holding something back even though he doesn’t want to. "We can share. You know, if you want."
Seeing each other only a few times a year has led to unsteady relations. They love each other, but they don’t know each other well enough to expect love back unconditionally. Not anymore, at least. It really is an uneasy situation, but at least Rory got the normal end of the stick. Mack and Kieran are both brothers to him, equally, even if they’re not quite sure how to be brothers to each other.
But Macaulay is his brother, and he’s holding the blankets back even as he’s scrunched beneath them like a little kid, and it really is cold in the living room, so Kieran gets beneath the covers and rests his head on the pillow next to Mack’s.
"You didn’t have to put the cigarette out, you know," he says. "I don’t really mind."
Macaulay shrugs. "Its bad for me, anyway. Mom keeps calling to tell me that. I just tell her that at least I’ve never done anything worse than cigarettes."
Kieran laughs, even though he’s not sure that’s strictly true.
Mack grins, a quiet, lazy thing, and says, "Besides, if I’m not getting laid, I can at least get a nicotine fix."
"Yeah," Kieran says, and then after awhile, "Hey. Maybe I should have a cigarette."
That makes Mack laugh too, and then they’re both laughing, and its nice. They haven’t seen each other in awhile—Mack’s been in England and then Kieran was filming, but now they’re here together, in this little apartment without Mom, and its nice. Like they’re finally grownups together, or something.
Not that Macaulay sees it that way. When he’s done laughing, he just looks at Kieran for a minute, and then sighs, ruffling his brother’s hair. "God. Its so weird to think that you’re nineteen, now. You’re gonna have sex. Fuck, you already did a love scene in a movie. I’ve never even done that before."
"Its not that big a deal. It’s more awkward than anything else. Shit, I hope sex isn’t like that."
Macaulay smiles. "I know. Its just fucking weird, you know? We used to sleep in the same room, and now you’re making love to people."
"Fictionally," Kieran says, rolling his eyes. "Besides, we’re sleeping in the same room now. Don’t be so goddam dramatic, Mack." He punches Mack playfully on the arm.
Mack punches him back, and there’s a brief scuffle for dominance before they both end up on their backs again. This time, though, Macaulay’s arm is beneath Kieran’s neck, a sort of half-hug. Its warm, comfortable, but it makes him feel lost somewhere between child and adult, somewhere uncomfortably indefinable. Especially when Mack rests his head against Kieran’s, and his blond hair falls in Kieran’s eyes.
He sighs, and his eyes close like he’s very, very tired. "I miss this. Sleeping with someone, I mean." Macaulay is always adding ‘I mean’ and ‘you know’ to the end of his sentences, like he’s afraid no one will ever know what he means.
"Yeah," Kieran says softly, although he’s never slept with anyone except Macaulay. Not more than once, anyway, and even those few times he’s fallen asleep at parties, some random girl or guy he doesn’t know crashed out on the floor with him, it always makes him think of Mack.
"Like, I’ve fucked other people since Rachel, and I’ve fallen asleep with a couple of them. But there’s something different about falling asleep with someone who really loves you. There’s something more there about them, somehow. And it’s nice to think that whenever you want, you can just roll over and kiss them." As if to prove this, Macaulay kisses Kieran, soft lips just a little too close to Kieran’s mouth.
His pause is a little too long this time. Eventually he just says, "Yeah," again, and reaches over with one hand to turn off the bedside light. With it off, everything is thrown into semi-darkness, the moonlight from the window only illuminating the shining parts of Mack—his huge silvery eyes, his wet lips, the occasional strand of his hair turned platinum.
Mack smiles, a little bit sheepish, and rests his head against Kieran’s again. "Sorry. You probably want to sleep, huh? And I’m just chattering on like a motherfucker."
"No," Kieran says, a little too quickly, because he likes hearing Macaulay talk, and he doesn’t want to discourage it. "I just…I just like the dark," he says, a bit lamely. It sounds stupidly romantic, like something he should be saying to somebody in bed with him who’s not his brother.
"Good," Mack says. He nods seriously. "Good. That’s a good thing, Kierie. The light is good for you, but the dark can be good, too. You need it." And that sounds stupidly romantic, too, but Macaulay really means it, so it just ends up seeming incredibly earnest and beautiful.
And it is a stupid thing to say, but it makes Kieran feel reassured, all the same. Because this feeling in the pit of his stomach is a dark one, a weird one, a completely fucked up one, and its nice to hear Mack say that its okay, its natural.
Mack makes a little noise, a sleep noise, and burrows even further into Kieran. "Come on. Lets go to sleep. That way, we can wake up together tomorrow morning."
It occurs to Kieran to tell Mack that that’s the way you talk to your lover, not your brother. And also that its stuff like that’s probably fucking Kieran up, mixed signals that make him think about things he shouldn’t be thinking about. But its late, and cold, and Macaulay is warm and comfortable and so very there against him, so he just pulls the blanket over both of them and shuts his eyes, looking at the darkness inside of his eyelids.
Bells and footfalls and soldiers and dolls,
brothers and lovers she and I were…
Can’t stop loving, can’t stop what is on its way.
Part 2: Neverland
hola, rojo, 'morning to you
you always helped me chase demons away
don't know what i'll do without you
Kieran wakes up to Macaulay’s mouth, wet and open on his neck. Mack is breathing heavy and even, still sleeping, but Kieran can’t sleep anymore. Not like this.
He does his best to roll over, trying not to disturb his brother. Mack looks so childlike in sleep—well, fuck, Mack looks so childlike always, if you want to get technical about it—all eyelashes and soft lips, nose delicately flared. Its insane—Kieran looks just like this, almost. He probably looks like an angel when he’s sleeping, too. He has Macaulay’s lips and eyes, although his cheeks don’t have that cherub-curve and he doesn’t look as innocent as this. They look enough like each other, though, that the sight of Mack sleeping shouldn’t make Kieran’s heart pound like this, like he’s looking into a painting, high on the scent of watercolors.
It should be just like looking into a mirror. But its not.
Rolling just slides Mack further into his arms, though. He’s the older brother, he should be the one doing the comforting, but he’s cuddled so far into Kieran’s body that it makes Kieran feel protective. He doesn’t want to wake Mack up. He’s been working so hard all of his life, he deserves to sleep.
Kieran’s arms are around Mack, and Mack sighs a little, makes a sleep-noise. His mouth slips wetly to Kieran’s collarbone, where his shirt has slipped down over bony shoulders. Kieran just closes his eyes and holds his older brother like a child.
I will forget him in days
in my new life, no room for a lost boy
boys can be so dumb sometimes
When Kieran wakes up again, Macaulay is gone and the apartment smells like cigarettes again. The smell is oddly comforting. He goes in the kitchen and Mack has a cigarette hanging loosely from his bottom lip, staring absurdly serious at his own stove.
"Mack?" Kieran says from the doorway, yawning. "What are you doing?"
Macaulay looks up and grins, transferring cigarette effortlessly from mouth to hand. "You’re awake. Good. I was thinking about making my little brother some real food, but then I realized that I’d probably burn the house down. So."
Kieran ignores the fact that they’re not actually in a house and steps up to the stove. Its too clean, shiny silver and he realizes that its probably never been used. "Do you have eggs?" he asks dubiously.
"I think so." Macaulay checks the fridge, which is surprisingly full of real food, fruit and milk and everything, and only a few boxes of Chinese food. Kierie decides he wants to have apples after breakfast. Or pears. Something sweet. "Yeah. Do you know how to cook?"
Everything goes silent for a second, and Kieran knows they’re both remembering mornings, Dad yelling and Mom yelling back and Kieran finally going to the stove, standing on a step-stool to cook the eggs or the pancakes or whatever it was that needed to be cooked so Dad would shut the fuck up. Yes, Kieran can cook.
Kieran starts to say something, but Mack shoves the carton of eggs into his hands with a short, "Here," and sits at the kitchen table, arms crossed over his stomach.
"Macaulay, its okay."
"No, Kierie, its not," he says quietly. The smoke forms a haze around his head. Kieran can’t see him anymore.
He breaks the eggs into a bowl, gets milk from the fridge, beats the eggs and searches through Mack’s cupboards for a pan. By the time he finds one, Mack is by the stove, turning it on and using the flame to light a new cigarette. When Kieran reaches out to hold his hair out of the way, Mack jerks his head back, coughing on smoke.
"Shit! Kierie, you could have burnt yourself," he says, always the protective older brother, despite the obvious irony. Kieran had been protecting him, not the other way around. "Here, gimme your hand."
"I’m fine," Kieran says. "You could have lit your fucking head on fire, Mack." He submits to Macaulay’s outstretched hand, though, and lets his palm and fingers be thoroughly searched for burns, Mack’s fingers rubbing cool and smooth against his own.
When Macaulay finds there are none, he nods approvingly and turns back to the stove like he actually knows how to cook, and Kieran can’t help but laugh. "You’re something else, Mack."
"Just get the butter, jerk."
Kieran butters the pan, and Mack pours the eggs in, and Kieran gets that weird domestic feeling again, like they’re both finally grown-ups together, or like they’re back to being little kids sharing a room again. This time, Macaulay does nothing to spoil it. He just stands aside and smokes while Kieran scrambles the eggs, his back against the sink and his eyes sometimes on Kieran, sometimes fading away like his thoughts are on other things. Kieran has to shake him when the eggs are done. "Hey. Time to eat."
Mack doesn’t say anything, just nods, but he gets plates and forks and sets them at the tiny table, and Kieran serves the eggs, just like old times, just like childhood. They eat silently, eggs and salt and the taste of something else, but it’s not a real taste, just something in the air between them. Kieran doesn’t know what it is until he looks over and sees that Mack’s cigarette is dripping ash onto his arm. The soft, pale inside of his wrist is burned bright pink from it.
Mack jumps, and takes the cigarette away from his arm, and Kieran realizes with a pang that he hadn’t even realized it was there. It’d be almost better if he had.
Macaulay just crushes out his cigarette on the table, and Kieran grits his teeth. Takes Mack by the arm and over to the sink, and holds his wrist under the cold water. "Seriously, Mack, what the fuck?"
"Sorry," Mack says, already reaching into his pocket for another cigarette. "I was…thinking."
Kieran takes the cigarette out of Macaulay’s hand. "Christ. Mack..." Mack just stares at him blankly, and those are the mirror image of Kieran’s eyes, so he knows when they’re just playing dumb, okay? He sighs though, and lets Macaulay get away with it, only telling him, "Just…be more careful, okay?"
Mack turns off the water and starts to take the cigarette back from Kieran, but instead his hand grasps onto Kieran’s. His fingers are wet and cold, and they hold Kieran’s tightly. "Kierie, we’re not anymore, are we?"
Mack squeezes his hand. "Not close anymore. I don’t know you anymore, do I? You’re all grown up."
Kieran smiles weakly. "Mack, grown up’s not a bad thing."
Macaulay laughs, and then his arms go around Kieran’s neck. "Kieran…shit. I don’t know how to talk to you. I don’t know how to touch you the right way. Its all so awkward, and I don’t want it to be."
"This way," Kieran whispers to him. "Just this way is fine, Mack."
"But I don’t want it to be fine, Kierie, I want it to be right. I want it to be the way you want it to be. I want it to be the way I want it to be."
"How do you want it to be?" Kieran asks into Macaulay’s shoulder. His fingers dig into the base of Macaulay’s spine, because this is too much like waking up, too much with Mack’s arms around him and his breath on Kieran’s ear.
"I don’t know how I want it to be," Mack says shortly, then breaks away. He picks up his cigarette from where Kieran dropped it, and goes into the living room. Kieran sits at the table and finishes his breakfast, and tries to bring his thoughts back from wherever they had gone, because he knows they’re not allowed to follow Macaulay. Not when the destination is unknown.
second to the right
straight on 'til morning
that's where i'll be waiting
Part 3: Everything's Circular
Kieran eats his breakfast, and when it looks like Macaulay’s not coming back to the kitchen he eats Macaulay’s breakfast, too. Nothing tastes very good to him, though, not even the apple he steals from the fridge. He’s thinking too much but trying to keep his thoughts from going certain places, so everything is just circular.
When he feels like sufficient time has passed, time enough for them to look at each other without having to look away, he goes into the living room. Its too late, though. Macaulay’s gone, and so are his keys. Kieran hadn’t even heard the door close. He hates to think it, but he knows Mack probably choreographed it with Kieran getting up to open the fridge. He’s calculating like that.
Kieran shuts his eyes and breathes in, deep, then sits down and flips on the TV. One of Mack’s old movies is on cable—looks like The Good Son, but he can’t know until he sees Elijah Wood. He watches until the sight of Mack’s young face, not so very different from his face now, makes his eyes hurt, and then he changes it to a rerun of some sitcom. The laugh track is comforting, so different than the familial silence of the movie. He curls up on his side and waits for Macaulay to come home.
* * *
And as soon
as you have
rearranged the mess
in your head
He will show up looking
Eventually he dozes off, and when he wakes up again Mack’s fingers are curled into his hair, petting him like a cat. The ever-present scent of smoke is back, and Kieran finds that he’s grateful for it—things aren’t too weird for Macaulay to smoke. Mack is the opposite of most people: he smokes when things are fine and quits when he’s distressed.
"You didn’t finish your eggs," Kieran says. It makes Mack jump, but after a second he continues petting Kieran’s head.
"Sorry. They were good, though," Macaulay offers.
"Its okay. I ate them for you."
"I got something at the liquor store on the corner instead."
Kieran doesn’t have to see Macaulay’s face to know he’s rolling his eyes. "Twinkies. Smartass."
"So…where’d you go?"
"Nowhere, really. I just…drove around."
Those are the sentences that break the comfortable quiet. Those gaps of silence are too full of whats not being said, and Kieran sits up, trying to rearrange his hair, twisted into flyaway curls by Mack’s fingers.
"Don’t," Mack says, "that looks good on you," and Kieran gives up the fight with a sigh, smoothing it down once and letting it go.
"You could have told me you were leaving."
"No, because then you would have stopped me," Mack says patiently. "Look, I’m sorry, Kierie, okay? I just needed to get away for a little bit. I needed to think."
"About us." Its another one of those things that should be said to a lover, not a brother, but this time Macaulay seems to know it.
"Okay," Kieran says, crossing his arms and jutting his chin out like a spoiled little kid. "What about us?" He reaches over and takes the cigarette out of Macaulay’s hand, bringing it to his own lips. The smoke is harsh and bitter and hurts his throat, but he likes it. It lets him know what Macaulay tastes. What he tastes like.
He coughs, and Macaulay laughs, taking the cigarette back. "Careful with that, kiddo. I’m pretty sure you’re gonna need your lungs someday."
Kieran just looks at him blankly. Mack stops laughing. "I’m not a kid anymore, Macaulay. I could buy my own cigarettes if I wanted to." And he does, sometimes. Not to smoke but just so he can let them burn, so his room will smell like Macaulay even if they’re thousands of miles away.
Mack draws in a breath, and his eyes shut tightly for a second. When he opens them again, they’re unreadable as always. Or like they never are. Kieran can never tell if his brother’s eyes are a perfect map of his emotions of just a clever cover for them.
"I know. I know you’re not a kid anymore, Kierie, that’s what this is about." He turns off the TV and starts pacing, trailing ash onto the carpet. Everything in Mack’s apartment is coated in the stuff, like the aftermath of a volcano.
Kieran sighs and pulls his legs under him. "What do you mean, Mack? Nothing’s changed. I’m just older. So are you." Except that’s a lie. It wasn’t like this before.
Kieran doesn’t have any idea when it happened, but somewhere along the line he started thinking about Mack differently, looking at his lips and his eyelashes and the angles of his wrists and wondering what these tiny little details meant. He doesn’t think you’re generally supposed to contemplate the meaning of your older brother’s beauty. There’s not supposed to be a meaning. You’re not supposed to notice the beauty, even if its there.
Things are different.
Mack knows it too. "Kierie, everything’s changed. I don’t know how to talk to you anymore. I don’t know how to touch you. Everything’s fucking strange, and I don’t know what to do about it."
"Do whatever you want. Talk to me however you want. There aren’t rules about family, you know."
"But there are," Mack says. "Fuck. You used to be just my little brother you know? And now you’re like this whole other grown-up person that I have to relate to, and I don’t know what to do about it. In some ways you’re older than I am, and that scares me. Its like…like you’re gonna outgrow me."
"So your problem is that you have to treat me like a real person now?" Kieran knows that he’s twisting Mack’s words, slipping into the bratty little brother role just like always. He doesn’t even know why—if he really feels that way or if it’s just easier than doing what he really feels like doing. Because its easier.
"No! God, you’re not getting anything." Macaulay sits back down on the couch and crushes out his cigarette. This time when he looks up, his face is blank and incredibly young, the mark of a Culkin in turmoil. "I’m scared of myself around you. I’m afraid that I’ll do something wrong because I’m not sure what’s okay anymore."
Kieran sighs, moves closer and puts his arm around Macaulay. "Mack, we’re brothers. How can anything possibly be wrong between us?"
Mack just looks at him. His eyelashes are tiny black curves on his cheeks, and Kieran wonders if he’s supposed to be noticing that.
Macaulay notices him noticing, and something shifts.
Macaulay’s lips are dry but predictably soft, and Kieran’s eyes close instinctively. Everything is insane, and his head is going a mile a minute to all those places he’d been avoiding before, but it feels like every move he makes is achingly slow. Macaulay is kissing him. He’s kissing Macaulay, just lip to lip and pure sweetness.
Mack’s hand curls into his hair again, and Kieran wonders how this can feel more natural than any screen kiss. He wonders how it can feel like something he’s been waiting for if he hasn’t even really known that he’d been waiting.
Found that I
I craved it all